Singer Claire Lynch has been spreading the joys of bluegrass music for many years now, and fans will be able to witness her tremendous skills firsthand Oct. 22nd at the Elks Lodge in Red Deer. The show is being presented by the Central Music Festival Society.
Lynch, a multi-award winning American bluegrass musician, is heading out on her first tour through the prairies this month. Tickets are available via www.centralmusicfest.com. She’s made a few stops throughout Canada from time to time, but this marks the first organized and extensive tour of western Canada.
“I imagine we will meet up with friends and acquaintances from Alberta and Manitoba, but I’ve never been to Saskatchewan or Calgary,” said Lynch. “I’m really looking forward to exploring more of such a vast and beautiful place.”
Her latest albums Dear Sister and Holiday! have been described as musical offerings of love, celebration and heartfelt connection.
For her tour, Lynch will be backed by Bryan McDowell (fiddle-mandolin), Jarrod Walker (mandolin-guitar) and Mark Schatz (bass-banjo).
Lynch is a pioneer who continually pushes the boundaries of bluegrass . She was the 2013 Female Vocalist of the Year for the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) and a 2012 recipient of the United States Artists Walker Fellowship.
Her career has been decorated with many other accolades including two Grammy nominations and three International Bluegrass Music Association Female Vocalist awards in 2010 and 1997.
Recently, at the 2014 IBMA Awards, she received two trophies: ‘Song of the Year’ for Dear Sister, a co-write with Louisa Branscomb and title cut of her latest Compass Records release and ‘Recorded Event of the Year’ for a guest vocal appearance with Special Consensus on Country Boy; A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver.
Blazing her own trail in the mid 70s when there were few role models for a young woman in the genre, Lynch made history when she led the Front Porch String Band, which evolved in the 80s and 90s into “one of the sharpest and most exciting post-modern bluegrass bands on the circuit.” She formed her own Claire Lynch Band in 2005.
Lynch grew up in Kingston, New York until the age of 12 when the family moved to Huntsville, Alabama.
“My family is musical, so growing up there was a lot of singing around the dinner table, or in the car,” she recalls during a recent interview from Raleigh, North Carolina. “My mother played piano, and my father had a beautiful tenor voice.
“I also had two sisters who would sing harmony with me and we would do trios in church – there was a lot of church music growing up,” she said. “We also had a saying – there’s a song for every occasion.
“I had also spent afternoons during high school over at my girlfriend’s house – in her garage – with guitars and tape recorders, writing songs. That love for music was just inbred.”
In Alabama, she discovered the charms of bluegrass on a college campus in Huntsville, Alabama.
“A friend of mine from high school showed up playing in a bluegrass band,” she said. “The more I got into it, the more I saw that three-part harmony was just a huge part of it. I thought, well, I can do that,” she added with a laugh.
She also perfected her guitar playing – learning how to ‘flat pick’ rhythm guitars as well.
During those years, bluegrass and folk were styles that were soaring in popularity.
“My generation gravitated to bluegrass at the tale-end of the folk era. You could take an entire band and play in the middle of the woods! There was no electricity needed.” The style suited the nature of her voice to a ‘T’ as well. “I think if you put me in a pop band, well, I don’t know how well I would do,” she laughed.
She eventually joined a band called Hickory Wind. Later, the band changed its name to the Front Porch String Band with Lynch’s vocals as its centerpiece.
In 1981, the group retired from the road and Lynch pursued dual careers in addition to raising a family.
As a songwriter, her tunes have been recorded by such luminaries as Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, The Whites and Stephanie Davis. In 1991, the Front Porch String Band was resurrected with the album Lines and Traces, a move that led to the launching of Lynch’s solo career in earnest.
The band wrapped up the 20th century with the album Love Light in 2000. At that time Lynch took what she thought would be a break from music. Little by little, the lure of music worked its way back. She sang harmony on The Grass is Blue and Little Sparrow which led to promotional touring as backup vocalist for Dolly Parton. It proved to be an utterly magical experience. She describes Parton as ever gracious, kind, generous and fun to be with.
“She grew up in the mountains of Tennessee, so she knows all about mountain music and bluegrass,” said Lynch. “In about 1999 to about 2001, she decided to do those bluegrass albums – she did a series of three, and on two of them I was asked to sing harmony. She was also at a stage in her career where she didn’t want to do full-time touring so she did a couple of years of promotional touring for the albums.”
Lynch found herself backing Parton on some pretty exciting gigs including the Grammys, Letterman and Leno. “We did all of the really cool gigs. “I had the privilege and honour of being with her at band practice. She’s really really generous with her time. She also talks to everyone in the room – it doesn’t matter if you are the guy filling the water cooler.” It’s that kind of connection with people that has fueled Parton’s impact over the years.
“I’ve seen her walk by fans and they just break into tears.”
As mentioned, in 2005, Lynch struck out on her own, releasing the New Day CD. It was a hit on the charts and earned her IBMA nominations for ‘Song of the Year’ and ‘Female Vocalist of the Year.’
In early 2013, Lynch signed a recording deal with Nashville roots label Compass Records.
With their co-founder Garry West producing, she released the ninth solo recording of her career titled Dear Sister.
The band’s newest release, just last year, was a seasonal project titled Holiday! on Lynch’s own label Thrill Hill Records.
Tickets are available via www.centralmusicfest.com.